Anna Wright is pursuing her Masters of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She works for UW-Extension’s Environmental Resource Center as a graduate student evaluator, where she seeks to measure the success of state environmental programs.
By This Author:
Point blanket coats like this one have a very long history in Wisconsin and the region around the Great Lakes. Warm and water-resistant, the wool used in coats like this guarded against the harsh winters in the Great Lakes. From the beginning of the fur trade in the sixteenth century, Europeans traded wool blankets for beaver pelts, but in 1780 the British Hudson’s Bay Company began selling wool blankets with a distinctive pattern of stripes.
The practice of converting Hudson’s Bay Company blankets into coats began years before the company began mass-manufacturing point blanket coats in the twentieth century. During the fur trade, Native Americans hunters traded beaver pelts for wool point blankets. Point blankets were waterproof and warm, and easy to sew into coats.
When the Great Depression hit Wausau in the 1930s, Emelie Manthei (now Emelie Borth) was a high school student from a working-class family. Every day after school Emelie worked for a wealthy couple named Mr. and Mrs Burt who lived a few blocks from her high school. This was lucky, because when Mrs. Burt learned that Emelie had no winter coat, she asked her husband to get a coat from the Winter Frolic Committee.
The Wausau Winter Frolic was a winter sports festival sponsored by the Wausau Outdoors Club and hosted by the entire community. Though the Frolic did not last many years, the mission of establishing Wausau as one of Wisconsin’s winter sports capitals succeeded.
Located on the Wisconsin River, Wausau developed as a logging town in the 1830s. As the logging industry accelerated, Wausau flourished. However, its dependence upon logging also meant that when short-sighted businessmen over-harvested, the soft pines and logging declined and so too did the town of Wausau.